Thursday, April 19, 2007

D&C 76 – The Vision

Background and History to the Revelation

The following was recorded by Philo Dibble, who was present at the time the revelation was received.

The vision which is recorded in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants was given at the house of “Father Johnson,” in Hyrum [sic], Ohio, and during the time that Joseph and Sidney were in the spirit and saw the heavens open, there were other men in the room, perhaps twelve, among whom I was one during a part of the time—probably two-thirds of the time,—I saw the glory and felt the power, but did not see the vision.

The events and conversation, while they were seeing what is written (and many things were seen and related that are not written,) I will relate as minutely as is necessary.

Joseph would, at intervals, say: “What do I see?” as one might say while looking out the window and beholding what all in the room could not see. Then he would relate what he had seen or what he was looking at. Then Sidney replied, “I see the same.” Presently Sidney would say “what do I see?” and would repeat what he had seen or was seeing, and Joseph would reply, “I see the same.”

This manner of conversation was repeated at short intervals to the end of the vision, and during the whole time not a word was spoken by any other person. Not a sound nor motion made by anyone but Joseph and Sidney, and it seemed to me that they never moved a joint or limb during the time I was there, which I think was over an hour, and to the end of the vision.

Joseph sat firmly and calmly all the time in the midst of a magnificent glory, but Sidney sat limp and pale, apparently as limber as a rag, observing which, Joseph remarked, smilingly, “Sidney is not used to it as I am.” (Juvenile Instructor, vol. 27, 15 May 1892, pp. 303-4.)

Not all the Saints immediately accepted the revelation. The following is Brigham’s experience:

After all, my traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was so directly contrary and opposed to my former education, I said, wait a little; I did not reject it, but I could not understand it. I then could feel what incorrect traditions had done for me. Suppose all that I have ever heard from my priest and parents—the way they taught me to read the Bible, had been true;—my understanding would be diametrically opposed to the doctrine revealed in the Vision. I used to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew, and fully understood it for myself, by the visions of the holy Spirit. At first, it actually came in contact with my own feelings, though I never could believe like the mass of the Christian world around me; but I did not know how nigh I believed as they did. I found, however, that I was so nigh, I could shake hands with them any time I wished. (Deseret News—Extra (Salt Lake City), 14 Sept. 1852, p. 52, as quoted in Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants,” unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1974, p. 929.)

An Overview

The revelation contained in D&C 76 is a series of visions on the following topics:

1. The Son of God (vv. 1-24)

2. Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

3. The Celestial Kingdom (vv. 50-70, 92-96)

4. The Terrestrial Kingdom (vv. 71-80, 91, 97)

5. The Telestial Kingdom (vv. 81-90, 98-112)

Verse 21 in Joseph’s poetic version of the Vision:

I beheld round the throne, holy angels and hosts,
And sanctified beings from worlds that have been,
In holiness worshipping God and the Lamb,
Forever and ever, amen and amen! (Times and Seasons, 4:82)

Verse 23 in Joseph’s poetic version of the Vision:

By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made,
Even all that career in the heavens so broad,
Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last,
Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours;
And, of course, are begotten God’s daughters and sons,
By the very same truths, and the very same pow’rs. (Times and Seasons, 4:83)

The Vision of Satan and His Followers (vv. 25-49)

Making One’s “Calling and Damnation Sure”

v. 31, 35, 43 gives us the qualifications for making one’s “calling and damnation sure.”

  • know God’s power (v. 31)
  • have been mace partakers thereof (v. 31)
  • have suffered themselves to be overcome (v. 31)
  • deny the truth (v. 31)
  • defy God’s power (v. 31)
  • deny the Holy Spirit after having received it (v. 35)
  • deny the Only Begotten Son (crucify him unto themselves) (v. 35)
  • deny the Son after the Father has revealed him (v. 43)

The question is often asked, “Just how much does one have to know before one could become a son of perdition?” The following quotations from Joseph Smith and Spencer W. Kimball may help:

Joseph Smith taught, “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against Him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 358.)

President Kimball taught: “The sins unto death may be thought of as somewhat difficult to define and limit with precision. From the words of Joseph Smith quoted above we note that ‘. . . many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ will fall into this category. We cannot definitely identify them individually since it is impossible for us to know the extent of their knowledge, the depth of their enlightenment, and the sureness of their testimonies before their fall. . . .

“The sin against the Holy Ghost requires such knowledge that it is manifestly impossible for the rank and file to commit such a sin. Comparatively few Church members will commit murder wherein they shed innocent blood, and we hope only few will deny the Holy Ghost.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), pp. 122-23.)

How easy is to commit this sin? Not very. Brigham Young taught: “How much does it take to prepare a man, or woman, or any being, to become angels to the Devil, to suffer with him to all eternity? Just as much as it does to prepare a man to go into the celestial kingdom, into the presence of the Father and the Son, and to be made an heir to his Kingdom, and all his glory, and be crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives.” (JD 3:93)

Celestial Kingdom (v. 50-70, 92-96)

We know in the Celestial Kingdom there are three degrees. This appears to be referring to the highest degree with that Kingdom.

Requirements of the Celestial Kingdom:

  • Receive the testimony of Jesus (v. 51)
  • Believe on His name (we might say faith) (v. 51)
  • Baptized (v. 51)
  • Keep the commandments (v. 52)
  • Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 52)
  • Overcome by faith (v. 53)
  • Sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (v. 53)

Nothing specific is said in this revelation about the necessity of eternal marriage in order to achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom. That requirement is made clear in D&C 131:1-4 and D&C 132:15-25. Also, we learn from D&C 84:33-44 that faithfulness to the oath and covenant of the priesthood is a requirement. This is an excellent example of why we do not isolate verses and base the gospel on that isolation. When we read the scriptures, we must be inclusive with the doctrines and not exclusive.

D&C 76:54: Church of the Firstborn

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who so devote themselves to righteousness that they receive the higher ordinances of exaltation become members of the Church of the Firstborn. Baptism is the gate to the Church itself, but celestial marriage is the gate to membership in the Church of the Firstborn, the inner circle of faithful saints who are heirs of exaltation and the fulness of the Father’s kingdom. (D & C 76:54, 67, 71, 94, 102; 77:11; 78:21; 88:1-5; Heb. 12:23.) The Church of the Firstborn is made up of the sons of God, those who have been adopted into the family of the Lord, those who are destined to be joint-heirs with Christ in receiving all that the Father hath.” (Mormon Doctrine, 139.)

Joseph Fielding Smith has said: “To be ‘made equal in power, and in might, and in dominion,’ does not mean that all shall advance with equal rapidity and perfection, but that means are given to them as sons of God by which they may obtain this fulness.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:58)

Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 348)

Terrestrial Kingdom (71-80, 91, 97)

Requirements for the Terrestrial Kingdom

  • Died without the law (v. 72)
  • Visited by the Son in the Spirit World, received not the Gospel in the flesh but did in the Spirit World (v. 73-4) “they felt it by the Spirit” (See D&C 137)
  • Honorable men of the earth (v. 75)
  • They receive His glory, but not the fullness of His Glory (v. 76)
  • Not valiant in the testimony of Jesus (v. 79)

The doctrine in D&C 137:

In these verses the principles upon which the doctrine of salvation for the dead rests are announced for the first time in this dispensation. They are:

1. first, that the doctrine applies only to those who “died without a knowledge” of the gospel;

2. second, that God must read the hearts of those concerned and affirm that had the gospel come to them in mortality they would have accepted it;

3. and third, that God must judge that not only would they have accepted the gospel but that they would have done so “with all their hearts,” meaning that they would have endured valiantly and faithfully to the end.

Telestial Kingdom (v. 81-90, 98-112)

Requirements for the Telestial Kingdom

  • they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus (v. 82)
  • they who deny not the Holy Spirit (v. 83)
  • they who say they are some of one, and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses—but received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant (vv. 99-101)
  • they who are liars and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie (v. 103; Rev. 22:15 adds murderers)

The Great Invitation (D&C 76:114-118)

Here is what Joseph Smith said: “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 305).

On another occasion he said: “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

D&C 68: 15-18 - The Aaronic Order

Explaining these verses, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “There are some men in the Church who have been blessed by patriarchs and pronounced descendants of Levi, but they have not made any claim to the office of bishop, for the revelation governing this situation says literal descendant of Aaron, not of Levi. There is evidently a great host of men who are descendants of Levi but not of Aaron.

“The person spoken of in the revelations as having the right by lineage to the bishopric is the one who is the firstborn. By virtue of his birth he is entitled to hold ‘the keys or authority of the same.’ This has reference only to the one who presides over the Aaronic Priesthood. It has no reference whatever to bishops of wards. Further, such a one must be designated by the First Presidency of the Church and receive his anointing and ordination under their hands. The revelation comes from the Presidency, not from the patriarch, to establish a claim to the right to preside in this office. In the absence of knowledge concerning such a descendant, any high priest, chosen by the Presidency, may hold the office of Presiding Bishop and serve with counselors” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:92-93).

D&C 68: Scripture, Doctrine, Canon, and Truth


- As defined in D&C 68:4-5, scripture is the:

  • Mind
  • Will
  • Word
  • and voice of the Lord


  • from Latin, ruler, rule, model, standard, measuring rod
  • an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture
  • an accepted principle or rule; a criterion or standard of judgment
  • Binding on members of the Church (What we might say)
  • A cursory overview of Latter-day Saint canon:


Book of Mormon

Doctrine & Covenants



Pearl of Great Price canonized

Twenty five additional sections in the Doctrine & Covenants

The business of canonizing the new scriptures at this General Conference was conducted as follows:

President George Q. Cannon said: I hold in my hand the Book of Doctrine and Covenants and also the book The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the Conference, to see whether the Conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church.

President Joseph F. Smith said, I move that we receive and accept the revelations contained in these books as revelations from God to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to all the world. The motion was seconded and sustained by unanimous vote of the whole Conference. (Journal History, 10 October 1880, Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City.)


New footnotes, the Lectures on Faith are removed


Section 137, Section 138 (included in the Pearl of Great Price)


137 & 138 moved to Doctrine & Covenants


  • Latin doctrina, from doctor
  • Teaching
  • something that is taught
  • a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief
  • Current Church emphasis


  • Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English trEowth fidelity; akin to Old English trEowe faithful
  • Statement of fact
  • Is truth absolute? Elder Maxwell’s circles: Eternal Truth, Scientific Truth, Facts
  • What are some examples of truths, yet not gospel truths?

Perhaps these diagrams will help illustrate the principle:

“Letters to individuals are not the channel for announcing the policy of the Church.” (Boyd K. Packer, The Law and the Light, p. 13.)

D&C 107:27, 29: “And every decision made by… [the First Presidency] must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member… must be agreed to its decisions…. Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.”

President James E. Faust taught: “Who is to declare the doctrine? It is well established by revelation and practice that the current President of the Church and his counselors have the keys to declare the doctrine. The investiture of this authority comes from revelation. The First Presidency are constituted “a quorum … to receive the oracles for the whole church” (D&C 124:126). Of this authority, Elder Stephen L Richards (1879–1959), then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated:

“They [the Presidency] are the supreme court here on earth in the interpretation of God’s law.

“In the exercise of their functions and delegated powers they are controlled by a constitution, a part of which is written and a part of which is not. The written part consists in authenticated scripture, ancient and modern, and in the recorded utterances of our latter-day prophets. The unwritten part is the spirit of revelation and divine inspiration which are [pertinent] to their calling.

“In formulating their interpretations and decisions they always confer with the Council of the Twelve Apostles who by revelation are appointed to assist and act with them in the government of the Church. When, therefore, a judgment is reached and proclaimed by these officers it becomes binding upon all members of the Church, individual views to the contrary notwithstanding. God’s Kingdom is a kingdom of law and order.” (Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 115–16.) (First Presidency Message, July 2000 Ensign)

“The scriptures are important as standards by which to measure all truth. Those ideas in harmony with the scriptures are true; those out of harmony are false.” (Gospel Principles)

Harold B. Lee: “I say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren’t able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false—it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today.” (First Presidency Message, December 1972 Ensign)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

D&C 58, 59, 60-66 - Zion and the Sabbath

D&C 58:2-5:

How Firm a Foundation

These next few verses remind me of those words:

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

2. In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

6. E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov’reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still, like lambs shall they still,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

D&C 61:19:

It is not clear if this destroyer is an angel of God or a devil. On other occasions when the destroyer is mentioned in scripture, he is a servant of God. The following examples come from Revelations of the Restoration, by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler.

  • For example, at the time of the first Passover in ancient Egypt, death was sent to all households that did not have the blood of a lamb upon their doorposts. But faithful Israelites were protected; the Lord promised them that he would “not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).
  • In our dispensation, when the Saints were being driven from Zion, the Lord declared, “Behold, the destroyer I have sent forth to destroy and lay waste mine enemies; and not many years hence they shall not be left to pollute mine heritage, and to blaspheme my name upon the lands which I have consecrated for the gathering together of my saints” (D&C 105:15).
  • In a similar vein, “angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to” destroy the wicked (D&C 86:5).
  • Likewise, the revelation given to John the Beloved, referred to in this section, mentions several angels who send plagues and calamities upon the earth (Revelation 8-10, 15-18).
  • Given that the destroyer rides upon the waters by the Lord’s decree, it seems likely that the being seen in vision by William W. Phelps was a servant of God.

On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote concerning this decree,

  • “These brethren, while encamped at McIlwaine’s Bend on the Missouri, beheld the power of the destroyer as he rode upon the storm. One of that number saw him in all his fearful majesty, and the Lord revealed to the entire group something of the power of this evil personage. It may seem strange to us, but it is the fact that Satan exercises dominion and has some control over the elements. . . . Paul speaks of Satan as the ‘prince of the power of the air.’ (Eph. 2:2.) The Lord revealed to these brethren some of the power of the adversary of mankind and how he rides upon the storm, as a means of affording them protection. They were commanded to use judgment as they traveled upon these waters, and the saints coming to Zion were instructed to travel by land on their way up to Zion. Moreover, notwithstanding the great power of Satan upon the waters, the Lord still held command and he could protect his people whether on land or by water as they journeyed” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:224-25).

D&C 62:3:

President Joseph F. Smith taught: “A testimony of the truth is more than a mere assent of the mind, it is a conviction of the heart, a knowledge that fills the whole soul of its recipient.” (Gospel Doctrine, 364)

D&C 50 - The Lord's Philosophy of Education

Verse 37:

Joseph Smith taught, "Faith comes by hearing the word of God." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148.)